Blog from the Arab Regional Conference
"Guides, Reach Out Beyond Boundaries"
As we arrived, the Omani delegation and Ministry of Tourism warmly greeted us and helped expedite us through Passport Control and Security. They guided us through check in at the hotel and made sure we were all happy. Their hospitality and graciousness immediately made us feel comfortable and welcome.
Getting up early in the am to attend the first session, we were greeted with color and noise of chatter, all indicating people meeting again and catching up with friends. With the sound of Arabic vowels mixed with smatterings of English, cameras flashing, and colorful country dress uniforms, meant The 20th Arab Regional Conference was starting.
The opening ceremony was attended by The Patron of the event, Her Excellency Maith Bint Saif Al Mahroogia, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism, and various dignitaries. We were all entertained by the Omani Girl Guides who filled the room with color, girls dancing to the beat of music, ribbons and dresses swaying to the music. The audience could not help but clap rhythmically.
The Omani guides with their infectious smiles, heads beautifully swathed in white head scarves, are ready to help with anything and are feeding us well with delicious regional food.
In the afternoon we heard from a prominent Omani woman who inspired the attendees with her wisdom, evident by the silence in the room, as she spoke on the theme - 'Guides, Reach Out Beyond Boundaries'. She spoke on how the ideals of Guiding have been implemented to shape the development of the Omani Sultanate ensuring women contribute as much as men to the growth of their society.
The Arab phrase 'in shallah' is embraced during the conference evidenced by business addressed and things done in an unhurried atmosphere.
Mary Ellen Snow (USA)
As the participants arrived in more casual dress of country uniforms the chatter with new and old friends was energizing.
The conference progressed to the business portion of the meeting with Presentations by the WAGGGS team of Nicola Grinstead - Vice Chair of the World Board, Deb Cross - Chief Operation Officer, Elaine Paterson - Chair of Fund Development, and Catherine Roberts - Director of Governance, on Vision 2020. They did an excellent job by repeating the important points. On Day 1 the successes of the region were shared and today was the discussion of the future. The Future Global Strategy Plan and Governance Review was presented with lively discussion ensuing with the various participants from the MOs. We were reminded how important it is that translation isn't always perfect from one language to another. An example is that Governance does not translate perfectly into Arabic and Micheline and Noura who's mother tongue is Arabic, were able to help the MOs to understand that Governance was not Government.
The workshops that ensued in smaller groups were successful and they all were able to clarify and share information for greater understanding to build the future of the Arab Region and the and World Association.
The highlight of the day was the National Day and Women's Market at the Oman Women's Association. All participants dressed in National Dress. Nicola was dressed in a traditional Omani outfit which she wore elegantly as she interacted with the Guides. The Omani guides entertained us with traditional Omani dances and songs. The girls in their elaborate colorful dress, while the outfits were similar they also were quite different in individualized style, color and adornments. The excitement in the room was palpable with the Omani ladies joining the Guides, showering them with money, clapping, dancing and the customary Arabic shrilling. It was an honor to be invited to experience this special part of their culture.
We enjoyed the market and were treated to many regional sweets, Arabic tea and handicrafts. The aroma, color and sounds of tradition were all very evident which reinforced how tradition is so important to this region.
We were then treated to a feast of traditional Omani dishes enhanced with varying levels of spice creating delectable aromas.
The evening ended with more beautiful rhythmic music with all joining in and all taught traditional dance moves.
What an exhausting but exhilarating day.
Mary Ellen (USA)
This morning it was evident that we were all a little drowsy from the late night celebration of National Day and the Market, then an early morning start. Coffee was a welcome start to our morning.
The morning business began with the Arab Region Membership Strategy and Operational Plan 2013/2014. Technical problems occurred and the participants spontaneously started singing with many joining in while waiting for the problem to be resolved. Micheline then had everyone stand up and all joined in on a song together. The spirit of sisterhood in the region and engagement was exciting.
Several MOs presented best practices on their membership increases. Animated discussion ensued and they all became very excited as they discussed their dream to have their own Girl Guide TV station for the Arab Region.
The focus for the Arab Region is to focus on ways to increase membership. The MOs discussed targets and are very optimistic for the next Triennium.
Saudi Arabia was present as a guest and presented a beautiful film on the start of their Girl Guide program. In just a few years they have grown from 11 Girl Guides to 500 Girl Guides. They are planning on continued growth. The Arab Region team expressed their wish for them to join the WAGGGS Arab Region in the future.
Anna Maria Mideros from the World Center Team eloquently presented information on the World Centers. We all enjoyed the videos and information. When asked who had been to a World Center it was encouraging to see many hands raised.
The evening ended with a delicious dinner of Omani delicacies. There was lively discussion at the tables. A talented lady from the UAE inspired everyone with a poem which everyone then became engaged in joining in.
The enthusiasm continued on the bus ride back to the hotel with the ladies from the various countries all engaged in energetic singing of various Arabic songs. Even the bus driver was laughing and enjoying the enthusiasm.
Mary Ellen (USA)
Today is the last day of the conference and everyone is still very busy preparing for elections, awards and final business.
Once the 6 representatives for the Arab region Committee were announced, the participants all celebrated with music, dancing hugging and kissing with congratulations. The chair was elected from Oman,and the vice Chair from Yemen.
Vibeke spoke to the participants about OB-PS. Wisely, Vibeke decided to capitalize on the energy in the room after the celebration from the election and was able to engage the audience with shouts when she said 'OB-PS'. As always Vibeke represented and spoke on our behalf well.
Qatar was elected to hold the next Arab Region Conference in 2016.
Voting proceeded on recommendations for the Arab Region as well as proposals. Discussion ensued and all was passed. The Arab Region will be very busy working on creating a stronger Region. The Region has many wonderful ideas, dreams, and wishes for opportunities for their girls and young women.
During the closing ceremony many speeches of thanks were made to the hosts and participants. The ceremony ended with the ceremonial Omani Guides passing the Arab Region Flag to the Qatar Guides.
Mary Ellen (USA)
OB-PS Vice-president - Ginny Radford (New Zealand), OB-PS Board Member - Dr. Nourah Al Midfa (UAE), OB-PS President - Vibeke Riemer (Denmark) and OB-PS Board Member - Mary Ellen Snow (USA).